Out walking this month and I have been pondering how the land feels spent, as if it has given all it can and is now resting. The grassland where, only a few months ago butterflies danced, now lies fallow, devoid of movement and down-trodden by both walkers and rain. The Skylarks have left their nests for the ploughed fields and the ground where they raised their young is water-logged with the recent downpours. Similarly too for the Moorhens whose nests are now submerged a foot or so under rising, muddy river waters. They must now clamber worriedly through the more exposed levels higher up the bank.
It is as if all is exposed and laid bare. The ploughed fields, the wind-stripped trees, the torrent washed riverbanks and the shrunken undergrowth. With this laying bare there comes a sense of nature having resigned itself, not unwillingly but inevitably, to the onset of winter. There is nothing more the land can give and there is nothing more to be done by its inhabitants other than seek food and shelter and hope that the fat reserves of the good times will see them through. Even the remaining leaves must know their imminent downfall as they feel the sap rise no more.
Wind and rain, and harsh cold days will come, maybe even snow. In this knowledge the land rests and waits for come what may. It will endure but it will suffer loss and change. Already the footpaths are worn wider and instead of having to push gingerly through nettle and bramble overhangs I walk through, free from scratches and stings. My feet add to the churned up mire of hoof and walking boot, of bike track and dog paw.
Jackdaws are swept across the steel grey skies only wheeling away briefly to harry a lone Sparrowhawk. The predator’s cold stare searches for the unwary in the retreating foliage and adds harsh intent to the changing season. Woodpigeons sit huddled in the trees and herons hunch around the edge of the bleak gravel pit waters. It is a time for endurance and rest. Growth and new life will come, as will busy-ness and song, but for now only the Robin trills his melancholy commentary, an ode to the summer past.
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I wonder at our part in this scene and can’t help feeling somewhat out of sync with this season. Instead of resting having given, we work and spend to give more! Our season seems instead to be an ever-accelerating tunnel of frenzied shopping and work. Hopefully rest will come at the end but I fear the New Year will be upon us before then
Maybe it is our detachment (for the most part) from the land and our successful self-isolation from the seasonal elements that permits us to manufacture a second spring, albeit with evergreens and glowing bulbs. ‘Harvest Thanksgiving’ pops up on my phone calendar but for most I would imagine this is a cultural memory, harking back to a time when we were properly spent, like the land, and could rest with the land and the livestock until the coming of spring. It is not necessarily an idyllic scene but maybe it was a healthier one and less at odds with nature around us!